04 May, 2015

ETNO ThinkDigital Blog Post: Europe’s digital plans: stakeholders converge on need for action

The outlook is positive. If all players work together swiftly within the ecosystem, the EU will succeed in creating a Connected Continent that will lead the way in Digital.” #ThinkDigital

In the run up to the presentation of the Digital Single Market Strategy on 6 May, ETNO co-organised a #ThinkDigital breakfast debate with MEP Hökmark to ask stakeholders from across the Digital ecosystem what they believe should be prioritised in the EU in the near future.

A Digital Single Market is essential for the future of Europe. The Single Market currently available offline in terms of trade and free movement has opened doors and created huge opportunities for the EU. This environment now needs to be translated into a Digital format.

During the debate, event hosts Steven Tas, Chairman of ETNO’s executive board and MEP Hökmark, both offered Brussels-based regulators, policymakers and industry stakeholders a reality check: Stop thinking, it is time to act.

Will Europe seize the moment or will it continue to #ThinkDigital without translating this into any concrete actions?

Times are moving fast and the current hype around Digital Regulation in Europe will no longer make sense in 20 years said MEP Hökmark, opening the event. “It started with 2G in the 90s” added Gregory Pankert, Partner at AD Little “and then in 2000 with 3G technologies and DSL.” Europe has entered what A D Little calls the 3rd investment cycle and now has the chance to get it right.

The debate gave different perspectives from across the digital ecosystem with speakers and guests from the European Parliament, independent consultancies, the main telecom operators, alternative operators, cable operators as well as other industry players. There was consensus that it is high time to implement measures now in order to keep up to speed with the times. All players want a positive and strong digital future for Europe and although some of these stakeholders compete fiercely in the market, they also realise that their presence together in the ecosystem is what allows networks to innovate and deliver better services. All players have a vital role to play and for this reason, Caroline Van Weede, Managing Director of Cable Europe, stressed the crucial need for technology-neutral rules.

Policy and regulation should create a long-term, predictable and fair regulatory environment according to Pankert, who added that the EU’s role would then be to monitor players within this environment rather than to create more regulation. “There are many forms of regulation” added MEP Boni, “the question is how to find the right model to fit present needs.” “The way to long-term predictability,” he added, “is through a common European Digital framework.” “The EU’s current 28 markets need to be regulated as one” and “if we want a true digital revolution, there must be space for self-regulation” said MEP Boni, adding steam to the debate. What is clear, in ETNO’s view, is that there is an overarching need for industry players, regulators, legislators, policymakers and citizens to trust each other as partners in the digital ecosystem. Only then, will they be able to give each other the necessary space to self-regulate and ultimately to thrive within a consistent business environment across member states.

The outlook is positive. If all players work together swiftly within the ecosystem, the EU will succeed in creating a Connected Continent that will lead the way in Digital. “And it is not just about telecoms” specified Tas. “Telecom networks are the digital backbone of the EU’s progress, but players must also look at the huge cross-sector opportunities that are available thanks to these networks.

The speakers at the #ThinkDigital debate highlighted four main points that define the way forward for digital Europe. Policymakers and regulators must:

  • Deliver fast
  • Ensure that technologically neutral principles apply to all stakeholders
  • Implement a long term, predictable view to ensure future investment
  • Create a new, flexible regulatory model in which there is space for self-regulation.

Players share a common vision of the Digital future, but opinions differ on how to get there. Europe and its stakeholders need to show that they are capable of making the journey to a brilliant future together.

By Joanne Mazoyer, Digital Communications Officer, ETNO


To learn more about ETNO’s views on how to achieve a stronger Digital Union, read ETNO’s contribution to the Digital Single Market Strategy.

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